Book Review of "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl - 3 Main Lessons

He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how - Nietzsche

 

Often times I find myself searching for a purpose for me being alive. Sometimes I get really frustrated because I feel like a total loser when I can't come up with why I'm on this Earth. My boyfriend felt that maybe I was looking for meaning in my life and that I should read "A Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. The book is about Frankl's time at a concentration camp and the connection he was able to make with meaning. He then went on to discover logotherapy which uses existential analysis as it's main therapy technique. This book shows a well educated man who decides to not go against his fate and to remain civil even when there is misery and chaos around him. 

Since I like to keep things short and simple, I am only exploring a few of the main takeaways from the book and I am applying them to my life so far. 

 

Don't Aim at Success

On Quora.com, you'll most likely find a question about how to make money and how to be a successful entrepreneur, however, according to Frankl, we should not pursue success or money. He explains that success and money should only be a by-product of your love to your craft or passion. You have to let happiness and success happen naturally without pushing so hard for it. The more you push, the less you'll enjoy the money, etc. I understand that we need money to pay our bills but we cannot sacrifice our well-being in the process. Worry about making enough money to pay your most essential bills. Any money you earn after you've paid your rent, utilities, food, insurance, credit cards and other essential services you use, you can use to start saving money and start thinking about ways to increase it at a balanced rate. Frankl says, "I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run - success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it" pages 12-13.

 

Take Responsibility

When asked why he decided to stay in Austria when Hitler invaded it, Frankl goes on to explain that his father had found a piece of marble one day that belonged to a tablet where the Ten Commandments were inscribed. The piece of marble still had a Hebrew letter visible and unharmed. Frankl's father went on to explain that the Hebrew letter on the piece of marble stood for the amendment about honoring your father and mother. Frankl then knew that he could not escape and let his parents be taken to their doom without being with their son. Sure, this decision cost him his freedom and 3 years of suffering but his identity did not suffer. When you decide to be responsible, you will still go through hardship, but inside you will feel your moral code is as high as ever. This feeling will then help you go through the physical hardship without letting the suffering affect you as much and definitely without making you bitter in the process. Despair may happen when you don't assume your responsibility in that particular event. So always be responsible for your actions and keep your word. This is about having honor which is something that is very valuable in order to remain or become a well balanced human being. We now know that the true meaning of responsibility is the ability to respond. This is easy to see but hard to live, for we have been taught to believe and think the opposite. So we don't consciously choose our response, we react instead, and then we blame others for our reaction. No wonder we feel imprisoned by others and our circumstances. The balanced individual, on the other hand, has broken the spell, he/she see the illusion. He/She takes full responsibility for their response abilities and as a consequence, this individual always hold his/her own destiny in their own hands.

 

Love is The Ultimate Goal

"The salvation of man is through love and in love" Viktor Frankl. 

When you're going through hardships, it helps to focus your energy and attention to something or someone you love. For Frankl that someone was his wife, even though he didn't know at the time that she was killed at one of the camps. By just shifting his mindset from feeling cold and unfortunate to memories of happier times with his wife, Frankl was able to experience joy amongst horrible people and conditions. The opposite of love is fear. This emotion takes over when we feel uncertain and lose track of what our meaning is. Many of the prisoners at the concentration camp lost their will to live because they lost hope for a future where they were free. This made me really emotional because I am constantly in fear for my future because I don't know what my purpose in life is. I am a great accountant and I help people. However, I am often in search for meaning. I am willing to try to find an outlet to let my creativity roam free and allow more love into my life. Most of my life was about having money as a goal, but that's because I was very poor as a kid and fear was driving my intentions. Now, I am making the conscious decision to have love as my highest and ultimate goal. 

Bonus Lesson: 

The lack of meaning is often confused with depression and this is one of the main reasons that led Frankl to create logotherapy. He explains the concept of existential frustration which is the striving to find a concrete meaning in personal existence, or the will to meaning. Maybe you are sad because you are not happy with the career that you chose. That's okay. Just go out there and try as many things as possible, whatever makes you curious, go for it. Don't push it though. This is where I went wrong and felt sad almost every single day. Now I am deciding to take a break from that and just explore what's out there and what peaks my curiosity. 

 

Main Quick Points Made in the Book:

- Create a work or do a deed that brings you meaning. Strive for a life with abundance of meaning and purpose.

- Experience something or someone. Meaning can be found not only in work but also in love.

- Turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.

- Avoidable suffering should be dealt with immediately.

- Unavoidable suffering should be turned into meaning. If you cannot change the situation that is bringing you suffering, then choose your attitude towards it.

- You are responsible for overcoming guilt by rising above it, by growing yourself and by changing for the better.

 

There were many golden nuggets I gathered from this book. Too many to list!!! So read the book and let me know which nuggets you liked the most. This is definitely one of those books that should be read once a year.

 

With Love, Dania